In what appears to be the first move of any such kind in the history of cinema, the country of Kuwait has completely banned the indie horror film Talk to Me from playing within its borders due to star Zoe Terakes’ identification as transgender.

Hayley (Zoe Terakes) watches on as a classmate makes a daring handshake in Talk to Me (2023), A24

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Produced by A24 and helmed by Australian YouTubers Danny and Michael Philippou in their feature-length directorial debut, Talk to Me follows the story of Sophie Wilde’s Mia, a young woman who discovers that her classmates have been recreationally subjecting themselves to possession via communication with the embalmed hand of a dead medium.

Eventually volunteering to perform one such ritual herself, Mia soon finds herself being pursued by the spirits of the dead, all of whom wish to remove her from her body and take it for themselves.


Unfortunately for Kuwaiti audiences, though the film is receiving glowing recommendations across the board – on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 94% ‘Fresh’ rating across 235 critic reviews and an 82% ‘Fresh’ rating among over 500 audience reviews – its featuring of the aforementioned Terakes has drawn the film the ire of the country’s government.

Per sources who reportedly confirmed the decision to The Hollywood Reporter on August 4th, despite the fact that Terakes does not play a transgender character in the film nor is the topic even discussed, the Islamic state has completely banned the film from screening in the nation because the actor identifies as a non-binary, trans-masculine individual.

Hayley (Zoe Terakes) prepares a summoning ritual in Talk to Me (2023), A24

Hayley (Zoe Terakes) prepares a summoning ritual in Talk to Me (2023), A24

In response to the ban, Terakes took to Instagram the next day to offer their own thoughts on the entire situation.

Sharing an image highlighting THR’s coverage of the decision, the actor asserted, “I’ve been wondering how to respond to this. Whether it deserves the dignity of a response.”

Zoe Terakes responds to Kuwait's banning of Talk to Me

Zoe Terakes responds to Kuwait’s banning of Talk to Me

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“This isn’t the first film Kuwait has banned,” Terakes explained. “If there are queer or trans themes or scenes in your film, it’s probably not gonna make it to the Gulf. Which is devastating and terrifying in its own right. But our film doesn’t have queer themes. Our film doesn’t actually ever mention my transness, or my queerness. I am a trans actor who happened to get the role. I’m not a theme. I’m a person.”

“Kuwait has banned this film due to my identity alone,” the upcoming Marvel’s Ironheart star continued. “Reportedly, this is a first. This is a new precedent. It is targeted and dehumanising and means to harm us. As much as it is very sad to be on the receiving end of this, what is even more heartbreaking is what this precedent means for the queer and trans people of Kuwait. Representation is hope. Representation is a light at the end of the tunnel, a reason to keep going, something to hold onto in the dark, a voice that whispers things can be better than they are. Eliminating trans actors on screens will not eliminate trans people (as much as the government of Kuwait wishes it would) but it will eliminate a lot of hope.”

Hayley (Zoe Terakes) starts the timer for Mia's (Sophie Wilde) possession challenge in Talk to Me (2023), A24

Hayley (Zoe Terakes) starts the timer for Mia’s (Sophie Wilde) possession challenge in Talk to Me (2023), A24

“And hope is such a large part of how we live as marginalised people,” said Terakes. “It’s how we learn to move through the hatred and the mistreatment and the violence. We look to all the people who have done it before us, we look to all the people who are doing it beside us, and that gives us hope to keep going. We are a community that has learnt to depend on each other, because cis people have historically been no help. Therefore, our survival is so dependent on our ability to look to each other, to share with each other, to lean on each other, to love each other, to see each other.”

“My heart breaks for the trans people and queer people of Kuwait who have so few places to look,” the actor ultimately concluded. ” If you feel angry, sad or confused by this, consider donating to the Rainbow Railroad; an organisation that helps queer and trans people access safety and lives free from persecution worldwide.”

Hayley (Zoe Terakes) blows out a ceremonial candle in Talk to Me (2023), A24

Hayley (Zoe Terakes) blows out a ceremonial candle in Talk to Me (2023), A24

On August 7th, Talk to Me production company Causeway Films and sales agent Bankside Films would throw their full support behind Terakes, issuing a joint statement to the media in which they confirmed that “We stand in solidarity with Zoe Terakes following the decision by Kuwait to ban the film Talk to Me.”

“Zoe has made their own statement,” they added, “which we fully support, and we are immensely proud of their involvement in the film.”

As of writing, no entity related to the government of Kuwait has offered public comment on the nation’s decision to ban Talk to Me.

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  • About The Author

    Spencer Baculi

    Spencer is the Editor for Bounding Into Comics. A life-long anime fan, comic book reader, and video game player, Spencer believes in supporting every claim with evidence and that Ben Reilly is the best version of Spider-Man. He can be found on Twitter @kabutoridermav.